Wakeful baby? No problem

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The Independent Online
Sir: I was worried for any new mothers on reading your article "Help me make it through the night" (18 April). Although there is sound advice concerning bedtime routines, I would vehemently question the implication throughout the article that those parents who respond to their child's cries in the night have a "problem".

Babies' cries are specifically designed by nature to elicit a response in their parents, a rather clever device to ensure their survival. The hormonal changes in a woman on becoming a mother, especially if she is breastfeeding, ensure that ignoring her baby's cry feels like torture.

Perhaps we need to look at the subject from a completely different angle. Perhaps we need to accept the fact that when a baby wakes alone in the dark night, it feels frightened, needs its mother and wants her to stay. Perhaps this is normal healthy behaviour, showing a strong survival instinct, and we should be proud that our baby is so smart. Perhaps we need to accept that parenting is a job that doesn't stop for a stretch of seven hours out of every 24, and maybe it is during those most frightening night- time hours that our babies need our presence most.

An alternative answer to the problem from my own experience is: sleep with your baby and breastfeed on demand throughout the day and night. Sounds like hard work, but paradoxically you will not be too disturbed in the night after the first few months, as your baby settles in to the security of knowing you are always there and night feeds gradually diminish.

Eventually, mother and baby are so synchronised that you perform the night-time tasks in your sleep, and greet in the morning not knowing whether the baby awoke in the night or not. The result is a much more relaxed experience for both mother and child, and the rewards of loving and intimacy can't be described.

Stephanie Davies-Arai

St Albans, Hertfordshire

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